Though voice played a truant, the senior vidwans, who performed during the BGS music series, offered an interesting package.
The Brahma Gana Sabha (BGS) Trust has organised a five-day series of concerts known as vintage mornings and contemporary evenings. The morning programmes were indeed vintage wine! They attracted discerning rasikas and not those looking for only entertainment. It was good to see parents bringing their young children, who also sat through listening patiently. Some of the veterans, not withstanding advanced age or troublesome throat, showed how a concert could be made interesting without resorting to gimmicks or vocal calisthenics. Their dedication to the art was evident in their concerts. The younger generation accompanists in some cases seemed to derive inspiration from the seniors.
Veteran musician, Seetha Rajan, presented a concert steeped in classicism on Vaikunta Ekadasi with all the songs on Lord Vishnu. ‘Koluvaiyunnade’ in Devagandhari was rendered with a brief spell of swarams for the pallavi. Mayamalavagowla raga kriti ‘Tulasidalamula’ came with niraval at ‘Sarasiruhapunnaga’ followed by kalpanaswaras. Thiruppavai ‘Aazhimazhai Kanna’was presented in Varali. A short essay of Nayaki prefixed ‘Ranganayakam Bhavaye.’ One could not but admire Seetha’s perfect diction irrespective of the language. An enjoyable delineation of Shanmukhapriya came as a prefix to Annamayya’s ‘Paluvicharamulena.’ This raga itself has become rare these days. Embar Kannan on the violin followed the footsteps of the senior and came out with an attractive rendering of the raga. Niraval and swarams for the line ‘Melatho Sri Venkatesa’ brought out the major nuances of the raga. This was followed by ‘Govardanagirisam’ in Hindolam. The swarakalapana with stress on ‘ma’ was quite catchy. Khambodi elaboration presented unhurriedly brought forth many forgotten prayogams. Kannan’s essay was equally good. Naturally the selected song was ‘O Rangasayi’ with niraval at ‘Bhoolokavaikunta,’ which was rendered step by step to the climax. Arun Prakash on the mridangam followed the main artist with his soft toned touch enhancing the effect throughout the concert. His thani likewise caught attention. The recital concluded with ‘Janakajanani’ in Desh and a Ragamalika ‘Varuvai Kanna.’
Another veteran who carried on heroically in spite of voice problem was Neela Ramgopal, who is a stickler to tradition. What a tough Daru Muthiah Bhagavatar’s ‘Mathe Malayadwajapandyasanjathe’ in Khamas is! She rendered it without glossing over any details, repeating some parts even more than twice with stresses on different notes. After ‘Guruleka’ in Gowrimanohari with niraval and swarams for ‘Tatvabodanajesi’, came a short essay of Kannadagowla to be followed by Dikshitar’s ‘Neelothpalambikaya.’ Be it Ranjani or Mohanam, the delineation at length maintained their beauty and purity. The swarams for the pallavi of Mysore Yoga Narasimham’s composition ‘Sada Saranga Nayane’ in Ranjani also highlighted this aspect. Ganesh Prasad on the violin proved equal to the task every time. The composition in Mohanam was ‘Bhuvanathraya Sammohanakara Sasthaaram.’ If coming across a raga alapana of Kuntalavarali is rare, listening to Tyagaraja’s ‘Chintanaesada’ was even rarer. Showcasing her experience Neela chose Rishabhapriya for RTP, the alapana and tanam of which were excellent to say the least. The pallavi was set to Misra Triputa tala and had Anulomam, Pratilomam, Tisram and Ragamalika swarams comprising ragas such as Bilahari, Sriranjani and Madhyamavati. J. Balaji came out with a convincing thani. His controlled handling of the mridangam enhanced the concert considerably. Sindubhairavi tillana was the concluding item.
The manner in which his strong voice soared defied the fact that G.S. Mani was over 80. After the Kanada Ata tala varnam ‘Neranammithi,’ through his delineation of Kasiramakriya he demonstrated the difference between this raga and Kamavardhini/Pantuvarali by the way the swaras of the raga were handled obtaining a Hindustani flavour, even though they are exactly the same. He chose a rare kriti by Dikshitar ‘Ucchishta Ganapathou.’ Later he also presented two rare kritis - Tyagaraja’s ‘Lemi Delpa’ in Navaneetham and Dikshitar’s Nadanamakriya song ‘Prathyangira Bhagavati.’
Koteeswara Iyer’s ‘Nanae Unnai Nambinaen’ in the Vivadi raga Naganandini was rendered before he launched on the essay of Abhogi, which again came with a Hindustani slant, for the song ‘Sabhapathikku.’ There is no need to mention that M.A. Sundareswaran on the violin was at home in both these ragas as also Hindolam later. A short sketch of Varali introduced ‘Ne Pokada’ of Tyagaraja with swaras for the line from the charanam ‘Neeraja Nayana.’ The alapana of Hindolam had a dash of Malkaunz too, before Dikshitar’s ‘Neerajakshi’ was taken up. The Begada essay not only had some rare prayogams, but went swinging up and down creating a beautiful effect. Sundareswaran’s effort was lively with ideas which could sound appealing only on the violin. Announcing that he was choosing to sing the Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer’s version he rendered ‘Sankari Neeve.’ The swarams for the pallavi had some unusual combinations. Mannargudi Eswaran came out with a nice Thani. The other numbers, rendered on public demand, include ‘Darshan Dho Ganashyam,’ ‘Aatuvikkum Bommai,’ ‘Kandaena Udupi Krishna,’ ‘Naalai Varum Enru’ and a tillana in Kanada (the last two were GSM’s own compositions) and ‘Chidambaranai Ninai Manamae.’
It was like the clash of the titans, but in a friendly and understanding manner with mutual admiration – T.S. Sankaran on the flute along with his grandson Jayanth and Karaikudi Krishnamurthy on the mridangam. In his Abhogi varnam TSS played the swara passages changing the nadai – Tisram and Chathusram - within each cycle of the Adi tala. This item was like a wake up call for the audience who were still in the Margazhi slumber. The Hamsadhwani essay by TSS had some special sangatis bringing forth the essence of the raga.
Vittal Ramamurthy on the violin came out with a brief but pleasant version. The manner in which Jayanth handled the kalpanaswaras for the song ‘Kalainirai Ganapathi’ proved that he was a chip off the old block. ‘Sangeetha Gnanamu’ in Dhanyasi is becoming a rare kriti. The raga delineations by TSS and Ramamurthy were appealing. There were quite a number of senior vidwans who praised Jayanth for his alapana of Malayamarutham before ‘Manasa Etulo.’ The violinist’s version also was laudable. ‘Dinamanivamsa’ in Harikhambodi had TSS playing swarams for the pallavi by alternating notes.
After a racy ‘Bantureethikolu’ in Hamsanadam by Jayanth with a suffix of swarams for the pallavi, came the main raga Kapi, which he handled leisurely meandering through the labyrinths along with some flurries as a contrast. Ramamurthy’s version was an inspired one. Tyagaraja kriti ‘Intha Sowkyamaninae’ with kalpanaswaram for the pallavi by the young flautist offered much ‘sowkhyam.’ Playing thani in Adi tala was child’s play for Krishnamurthy and Adambakkam Shankar on the ghatam was able to match him well, though it was perhaps the first time he was playing with the veteran. The recital concluded with the Javali ‘Itusahasamu’ in Saindavi and the Sindubhairavi tillana with a brief sketch of the raga by Jayanth touched the hearts of the audience.